As a first step towards improvement, we should reinvent the very term 'IT'. The 'T' in IT reinforces the misconception by business managers that we are talking about something technical, something that is highly specialised. Few companies pay sufficient attention to the fact that information management is a pre-requisite for getting business value out of information and that IT is an underlying enabler for that. Instead of focusing on the journey, they are focusing on the vehicle - technology. So, we will use the term IT only when meant in such a way. In all other cases, we will use the term I3 (pronounced I three), meaning the combination of information management, information and information technology.
We know that any real value from the use of IT will only be achieved if I3 projects are suitably aligned to company change. Such a combined change particularly requires the proper management of stakeholder interests, which is only possible to achieve with involvement from the right management level.
In one case, the CEO of a large container terminal was able to describe the influence of IT in his company as: 'calm, operations overview, efficiency and speed'. Before achieving this, he spent considerable effort in getting standards agreed with partner organisations for integrating the business chain. This is a clear demonstration of the kinds of I3 competencies we'd like to see developing at board level. An effective CEO understands that, just as for Personnel and Finance, some aspects of I3 simply cannot be delegated. These aspects are, as it were, the 'I3 crown jewels'. As a top manager you hold on to all six of them:
Ownership of governance and infrastructure Moral ownership of company-wide information, IT infrastructure and rules of the game, arbitration where necessary;
External alignment Ensuring I3 alignment with external stakeholders;
Investment portfolio Spread investments to optimise today's position, whilst changing that for the future. Also preventing I3 projects and business projects landing up in separate silos;
Innovation leadership Assuming leadership for interpreting external developments and for innovation;
Change effectiveness Embedding IT-enabled company innovation in appropriate change tactics;
Interest management The role is one of 'architect of the game of interests'.
A best practice in the use of I3 crown jewels was demonstrated by a director of a publishing group: he personally led a change towards more professional marketing, which happened to include the enhancement of the CRM system. He avoided making the usual mistake: thinking that the need for a CRM system made this an IT project.